Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gitmo Detainees to have access to American Courts

Reverse_Vampyr has written an angry post railing against the Supreme Court's decision to give the 270 remaining detainees in Guantanamo Bay access to US Courts so they can challenge their detainment.

I totally disagree with him - this is LONG overdue. Terrorists or not, the idea of holding men indefinitely, without any charges being brought against them, is quite simply disgusting.

It is repellent to everything the American nation and constitution stand for. Just look at the Bill of Rights, which declares that nobody can be 'deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law' and demands the 'the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.'

The standard Conservative argument is that these detainees are not American citizens and aren't on American soil - and therefore aren't protected by the US Constitution. That's just an offensively twisted defence. America stands for something - freedom and liberty and justice.

If American troops and American tax payer's money is going to be used to operate a detention facility, it must do so under the umbrella of American laws and ideals. Semantics and spin doctoring aside, Guantanamo Bay is effectively US soil. Therefore, the rules of American society should hold authority there.

The other argument Conservatives make is that 'these detainees are terrorists!'

Well, that's not entirely true. It took two years for him to be released, but one of the 'terrorists' was a 13 year old boy who was released back to his 'country of origin' with no charges being brought against him. He wasn't a terrorist. Logically, not all of the other detainees are, either.

It should be straightforward enough to find out. Hold a trial! Present evidence! Charge these men with something - it doesn't even need to be that convincing. At least abide by the rule of law. Don't just lock them up for half a decade.

That sort of behaviour's more in keeping with the dictatorships America opposes - certainly not appropriate for 'The Land of the Free.'

The fact is, George Bush has gone on television hundreds of times touting the American way of the life and American values. It's entirely hypocritical to claim our society is inherently better than those we oppose when we behave in a manner just as despicable as theirs.

'Homeland security' is one thing - we want our families and nation to be safe. But if that safety comes at the expense of surrendering the basic 'inalienable rights' our forefathers fought and died for, perhaps this nation's not really worth keeping secure.

By holding ourselves to higher moral and legal standards than our enemies, we make ourselves more vulnerable - but I believe that vulnerability is worth living with, to defend something much more important. The founding principles of the American nation.

In the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy: "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

Once again, I leave the final word to The Great America, Thomas Jefferson:

"The Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume." Thomas Jefferson to A. H. Rowan, 1798

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789.

5 comments:

The Chronicles of a Fashionista in PDX said...

Wow! Seriously! I agree with you. It would be completely inhumane to hold them captive without a fair trial.

Texas Liberal said...

It's unamerican, unbritish and unholy to keep these folks without a trial!

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

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Hallie :)

Andrew Long said...

Thanks for the comment! Sue me not!! O=)

Reverse_Vampyr said...

(Thanks for the link, btw)

While I agree with you in theory – that these accused detainees need to be put on trial in a timely manner – the liberal majority on the SCOTUS blocked the use of military tribunals back in 2006. The division on the court was identical to the one today, and set the stage for the continued detention without trial.

I do, however, take issue with your assertion that "we behave in a manner just as despicable as theirs." We do not use blowtorches, drills and pliers to force confessions. We don't saw off their heads with kitchen knives. We don't drag their mutilated bodies through the streets and hang them from our bridges. There have been regrettable instances of immature and rough behavior at Gitmo, but nothing even coming close to the brutality exhibited in the fundamentalist Islamic world.

But back on topic, we needn't extend Constitutional rights and privileges to illegal combatants, opening the door to certain tort abuse. I understand what you're saying about giving these men their day in court, and on that we agree. I just disagree with the activism exhibited by the liberal majority on the court, eschewing legal precedents AND the safety of Americans in favor of imparting Constitutional protection to those who don't deserve it. That opens the door for ludicrous conclusions like "we didn't read these guys their Miranda rights when they were detained, therefore we have to release them." All one needs do is look at the worst our legal system has to offer to see what's coming in this regard.